PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan The 864th Engineer Battalion Task Force Pacemaker conducted its uncasing of colors and assumption of responsibility ceremony Feb. 16 at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Colonel Douglas M. McBride, 593rd Sustainment Brigade CENTCOM Materiel Recovery Element commander and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Taylor, 593rd Sust. Bde. CMRE command sergeant major reviewed the ceremony.
At its end, the Pacemakers had assumed responsibility and authority as Task Force Pacemaker-CMRE. The 864th is the second CMRE engineer battalion to arrive in Afghanistan, McBride said. We requested this engineer capability to meet the base closure and base transfer requirements that must be met to close out operations in the Combined Joint Area of Operations-Afghanistan by the presidential mandate.
McBride said the request for additional unit capability required special approval by the Defense secretary and chief of staff of the Army as a critical asset, coming at a time when the commander in chief had directed strength drawdowns in theater.
Task Force Pacemakers focus under CMRE command is to provide engineering support to base closures and base transfers to the Afghan national government. The decision to deconstruct or transfer the forward operating bases and combat outposts requires a partnership among commanders and leaders at the provincial and district level. Plans are finalized by the ministers of the government of Afghanistan through the Base Closure Commission. As of Dec. 1, 2012, 370 bases have been transferred and 230 have been closed, McBride said.
This is certainly a historic phase of Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Soldiers and Families of Task Force Pacemaker are honored to be a part of the CMRE and this daunting and complex mission, said Lt. Col. John W. Henderson, Task Force Pacemaker CMRE commander.
Deployments are nothing new to the 864th Engineer Battalion; this is Task Force Pacemakers fifth in the past 10 years, its fourth to Afghanistan and third to Paktika Province. During this deployment, Pacemaker Soldiers will serve jointly with Airmen from the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron based at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md., and the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron based out of Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in addition to Seabees from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28 out of Barksdale, La.
Its been 22 months since the Pacemakers returned from their last deployment to Afghanistan. While supporting the surge of forces sent to support Operation Enduring Freedom 10-11, the task force upgraded and maintained combat outposts, placed concrete barriers, constructed tactical operation centers and bed spaces and placed miles of Hesco barriers.
Whats ironic about this mission is that the 864th Engineer Battalion built most of the bases on previous deployments that they are now charged to take down, McBride said. It has truly gone full circle for this combat tested battalion.
The task force commander was confident his organization will accomplish its missions.
Task Force Pacemaker is exactly where we need to be right now to support our Army and nation, Henderson said, setting the pace for the responsible retrograde of United States Forces.